To provide insight on the development of pacing behavior in junior speed skaters and analyze possible differences between elite, subelite, and nonelite juniors.
Season-best times (SBTs) in the 1500-m and corresponding pacing behavior were obtained longitudinally for 104 Dutch male speed skaters at age 13–14 (U15), 15–16 (U17), and 17–18 (U19) y. Based on their U19 SBT, skaters were divided into elite (n = 17), subelite (n = 64), and nonelite (n = 23) groups. Pacing behavior was analyzed using the 0- to 300-m, 300- to 700-m, 700- to 1100-m, and 1100- to 1500-m times, expressed as a percentage of final time. Mixed analyses of variance were used for statistical analyses.
With age, pacing behavior generally developed toward a slower 0- to 300-m and 1100- to 1500-m and a faster midsection relative to final time. While being faster on all sections, the elite were relatively slower on 0- to 300-m (22.1% ± 0.27%) than the subelite and nonelite (21.5% ± 0.44%) (P < .01) but relatively faster on 300- to 700-m (24.6% ± 0.30%) than the nonelite (24.9% ± 0.58%) (P = .002). On 700- to 1100-m, the elite and subelite (26.2% ± 0.25%) were relatively faster than the nonelite (26.5% ± 0.41%) (P = .008). Differences in the development of pacing behavior were found from U17 to U19, with relative 700- to 1100-m times decreasing for the elite and subelite (26.2% ± 0.31% to 26.1% ± 0.27%) but increasing for the nonelite (26.3% ± 0.29% to 26.5% ± 0.41%) (P = .014).
Maintaining high speed into 700 to 1100 m, accompanied by a relatively slower start, appears crucial for high performance in 1500-m speed skating. Generally, juniors develop toward this profile, with a more pronounced development toward a relatively faster 700- to 1100-m from U17 to U19 for elite junior speed skaters. The results of the current study indicate the relevance of pacing behavior for talent development.